Tag Archives: Friends of Jaclyn Foundation

The annual Friends of Jaclyn Angel Walk moves me, as always. A very cool wedding dance montage will make you smile. And an “Only in Florida” story involves a water animal and yoga pants

One hundred and sixty-five.

It’s a big number in some cases (wow, you own 165 T-shirts?) and not such a big number in others (there were 165 fans at that high school volleyball match).

But for me on Saturday, 165 represented a tragic number. That’s the number of children who’ve died from pediatric brain tumors after they’d been “adopted” by teams across the U.S. after being linked up with the Friends of Jaclyn Foundation, the non-profit charity I’ve written about here numerous times, and an organization so near and dear to my heart.

Last Saturday was the annual FOJ Angel Walk, held at the Walkway over the Hudson pedestrian bridge in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. It’s one of the highlights of my year, every year, when many members of the FOJ community come together to honor those children who we’ve lost; to celebrate their fight, and their life, by releasing beautiful white doves into the sky, and to continually push for research for a cure.

It was a clear, sunny day for the walk, and my wife, my boys and I had a terrific time. As I’ve said before, one of the reasons I love FOJ so much, besides the amazing, huge-hearted people that run it, is that it’s not one of these billion-dollar monolith charities that feel so distant. As I looked at the names of the “angels” who’d passed far, far too young, I recognized them. In many cases I’d spoken to them, or their parents, or someone close to them.

As we walked across the bridge on a brilliant spring afternoon, a local youth choir sang. Bagpipers played beautiful music. And we all desperately, desperately hoped that by this time next year, that number, 165, would stay exactly the same.

For more on the Friends of Jaclyn Foundation, and/or to make a donation, please click here.

**Next up today, it’s been a while since I’ve featured a super-cool wedding dance montage, and this one is one of the best ones I’ve seen. It starts off with “The Lion King,” and gets into some Britney, some Backstreet Boys, and it gets better from there.
I always wonder about these things: How many hours do these dudes rehearse for this? Like, is it a month of practice at one dude’s house after work? Or do they each learn their own part, then they mash it together?

Anyway, I enjoyed this immensely. The little kid on the right killed me.

**And finally today, we journey down to my former home state of Florida, for one of those stories that could only, only happen in the strangest state in our beloved union.

We go down to Punta Gorda, Fla., where a local woman was pulled over during what seemed to be a routine traffic stop.

Deputies pulled over the pickup truck a woman and her male companion were riding in around 3:15 a.m. They saw it drive past a stop sign on Oil Well Road and turn onto Tamiami Trail without stopping, according to an incident report from the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office.

The 22-year-old man driving told deputies he and the woman were coming from the underpass of Oil Well Road, where they were trying to collect frogs and snakes, the report states.

When the police officers asked the woman if she had anything else on her person the deputies needed to know about, she pulled a foot-long alligator out of her yoga pants and placed it in the truck bed, according to the report.

A FOOT LONG ALLIGATOR!

Ah, Florida. The best part is she was cited for carrying the alligator because it’s not regulated to be carried in the state.

Who doesn’t carry alligators in their yoga pants, right?

Oh, I have some thoughts on Serena, Osaka and the U.S. Open finals debacle: Ms. Williams was almost completely wrong. The annual FOJ gala has me feeling wonderful and grateful. And Week 1 NFL sees the Redskins look great, oh those Browns, and the Bills look as bad as ever.

Alright, there was a huge U.S. Open controversy this weekend and let’s get right to it, in the mixed doubles final Bethanie Mattek-Sands…

Wait, hang on, that’s not the one you mean?

I kid, of course. The younger sister of Venus Williams was once again the center of an enormous brouhaha Saturday night, in a women’s final that was being talked about all over the media world Sunday.

Look, I’m always thrilled when MSNBC and CNN and NPR talk about tennis in any way, because it gives exposure to my favorite sport. But it seems like a lot of times tennis is talked about because of a reason like this.

OK, so there’s a lot to unpack here, I have lots of thoughts, I’m going to try to organize them but after talking and synthesizing all of the “hot takes” over the past 24 hours, I hope my thoughts are coherent…

1. Absolutely the first point I must make: Naomi Osaka 100 percent earned and deserved that championship. The poise, skill and strength she showed throughout the two weeks was outstanding, and this 20-year-old is absolutely a future star. So happy she broke through at the Open, and I’m so bothered that her triumph is marred by what happened. That she had to hear boos rained down on her during her U.S. Open trophy ceremony is appalling.

2. Serena Williams was 90 percent to blame for what happened (I’ll parcel out the other 10 percent in a minute). That a 36-year-old woman who’s been playing pro tennis for nearly 20 years would act that way on a court, still, is deplorable. Especially a woman who has a long history of unsportsmanlike behavior at the U.S. Open.

Forget about whether she even knew her coach Patrick Mouratoglou was coaching her when the violation was given; her gross misunderstanding of the rules (the umpire, Carlos Ramos, could’ve diffused things a little by explaining he wasn’t accusing Serena of cheating, that her coach was cheating, and she the player is responsible for anything her coach does) and how she behaved when given a point penalty was terrible, and sadly so many media apologists (Sally Jenkins’ column was particularly repulsive to me) seem to focus completely on Ramos, and ignore that it was Serena’s behavior that led to the problem in the first place.

3. The other 10 percent of blame for the situation goes to Mouratoglou, who absolutely later admitted he was coaching and then gave the excuse of “everyone does it” as if that should absolve him, and Ramos gets some blame, too. He could’ve diffused the situation by explaining why Serena got the first violation, and he could’ve given her a “listen, you’re getting very close to a game penalty” warning when she started ranting at him, calling him a liar and a thief. Other umpires have done that with other players. But it’s by no means required.

4. Ramos did his job; Serena or her coach committed three violations, and in tennis that means: warning, point penalty, game penalty. The rules were enforced exactly as written.

5. The sexism card and the racism card has been pulled out this weekend, of course. The racism charge is ridiculous, this had nothing to do with race. The sexism charge has more merit; there certainly have been men’s players like Jimmy Connors and others who have behaved abominably and not been given penalties as severe as Serena’s. (Connors famously called an umpire “an abortion). Roger Federer cursed at an umpire once and wasn’t penalized.

Then again, John McEnroe, Ilie Nastase and many, many other men have been fined, suspended and defaulted from matches.

Are men and women treated differently on the tennis court? Yes, sometimes. Does that excuse what Serena did? Not in my book. Not at all.

6. Osaka was pulverizing the ball and was probably going to win that match, regardless of the game penalty enforced at 4-3 in the second set. Anyone who saw a huge Serena comeback coming, you’ve got better vision than me.

7. Serena’s entire reaction/explosion from her belief Ramos thought she was cheating. Her pride and moral compass were triggered, and she couldn’t live with the idea someone thought she was cheating. Most players who get warnings let it go, and return to focus on the match. Clearly, she couldn’t.

8. Lastly, history matters. Reputation matters. If this were the first-ever incident of Serena behaving this way, maybe she gets more leeway and sympathy from others. But this is an athlete who had made great, great strides the past few years with her behavior on and off the court. She was no longer so discourteous when she lost, nor when she won. She was comporting herself with more maturity on and off the court.

But this was disgraceful and deplorable behavior Saturday night. I do give Serena credit during the trophy ceremony for trying to get the crowd to stop booing, and to give Osaka her due.

But man, was that too little too late. Naomi Osaka was a worthy champion. On Saturday night, Serena Williams was far from it.

**OK, let me move on to something that filled me with great joy. Saturday night was the annual Friends of Jaclyn gala, an event I look forward to every year because I get to see so many people involved in this fantastic charity. As I’ve written many times in this space before, my wife and I are heavily involved with this wonderful organization that pairs children with pediatric brain tumors with high school and college sports teams across the country, allowing these children to be showered with love and companionship at a very difficult part of their lives.

We all go to a lot of annual events but this one is special to me because it’s so gratifying to see the same people every year, specifically the kids who are fighting their disease bravely and seeing them annually lets me know that they’re still here, fighting, doing all they can. We’ve lost more than 150 kids to this horrible disease since FOJ’s founding in 2005, so seeing the smiling, shining faces of kids like Sterling Bachman and Grace Leva every year reminds me that some are winning this fight.

The Murphy family, and the two women who run FOJ, Erin Perkins and Alicia Greenstone, are so compassionate and have such huge hearts, and they do a phenomenal job raising awareness of FOJ and pediatric brain tumors.

I haven’t posted the original HBO Real Sports story about Friends of Jaclyn in a while, so I felt like today would be a good day to do it. Here’s FOJ’s website if you’re interested in getting involved.

**Finally today, football is back! Every year I get less excited about watching NFL football, for a variety of reasons, but week 1 always gets me excited. Everyone’s undefeated! New players are on new teams and anything’s possible! The Jets might not stink! The Browns might not stink! Maybe the Patriots WILL finally stink!

Anyway, my green and white boys don’t play their first game until tonight so I had a stress-free football Sunday, but lots of other interesting stuff happened, namely…

— Aaron Rodgers went down in the first half of the first game for the Packers Sunday night against the Bears, and millions of Packers fans (and fantasy owners) had to be thinking, “He’s not hurt AGAIN, right?) Well, he was, but only for a little while, and he led a stirring comeback and the Bears, after an amazing first half by Khalil Mack (hey Raiders, good job trading him, that looks great so far!), blew a huge lead and lost.

It’s good for the NFL to have Aaron Rodgers healthy

— The Washington Redskins were supposed to be terrible. They’ve got a new QB and seemingly not much talent around him. But they came out and whupped the Arizona Cardinals. One of the reasons I love Week 1: Now Skins fans are all excited and thinking their team is great. But what if the Cardinals just stink?

— The Browns. Oh, the Browns. After going 0-16 last year, they fell behind the Steelers 21-7 Sunday. Then they rallied to tie the score, forced the last of six Pittsburgh turnovers at the end of overtime, then had a game-winning field goal blocked. And so they ended the game in a tie.

But they did give us absolutely the best stat graphic of the year, nothing will top this, ever.

I mean… how sad is that? They tied their opener and it’s their best start in 14 years!!! Oh, the Browns. I love them so.

— There can’t be a more depressed fan base this morning than the Buffalo Bills (and to my Bills fan friends, of who I have several: I’m sorry). They lost 47-3 on opening day. Forty-seven to three!!!! That’s beyond bad. That’s pathetic.

Oh, the Bills. Gonna be a long winter in Buffalo.

Let’s go Jets. Let’s go Darnold. And Happy New Year to my fellow Members of the Tribe.

The Jets stink less than the Niners, the amazing Lions roll on, and more NFL thoughts. Walter White invades “SNL” and it’s glorious. And why on a personal level I’m thrilled Army finally beat Navy in football again

giants-cowboys

OK, I admit it, even with my beloved New York Jets having a miserable season, I’m starting to get sucked back into the NFL.

It’s December, we’ve got crazy-weather games going on now, like in Green Bay, New Jersey and in Miami on Sunday, the division races are heating up, and best of all, we’ve got new teams who haven’t been heard from in a while looking playoff-bound.

I’m looking at you, Tampa Bay Bucs, and you, Detroit Lions (9-4! A 2-game lead in the division!) and you, Miami Dolphins (who I still loathe from my childhood but man, they have been bad for a loooong time.)

Some thoughts from Sunday’s games, when the stretch run really began…

— Hell of a win from the Giants Sunday night. Cowboys had won 11 straight, but the Giants forced star rookie Dak Prescott into some bad interceptions, got a late TD from Odell Beckham Jr., and grabbed the victory. Always twice as bad for me when the Jets are having a miserable season and the Giants are actually good.

— But hey, the Jets won on Sunday, an absolutely meaningless victory and something that hurt their upcoming NFL Draft position. I swear, we were driving home from Long Island around 4:30 and I turn on the Jets-Niners game figuring it’s maybe 3-0, or 7-0, and hear that it’s 14-0 San Fran five minutes into the game. I immediately called my Dad to find out what the hell had happened.

“They’re the worst!” he declared. But alas, they rallied behind Bryce Petty, who probably isn’t going to be a great QB but found a way in the 4th quarter and OT to lead the Jets over a miserable Niners team. The Bryce Petty era, get excited!

— Anybody out there had the Lions having a 2-game division lead with three to play? Didn’t think so.

— Being a Redskins fan must be all kinds of fun. Kirk Cousins gives you heart attacks every week, then does just enough to help you win.

— Finally, not NFL-related but the great CBS announcer Verne Lundquist called his last college football game on Saturday, and he offered this beautiful send-off at the end of the broadcast. He’s a class act and a guy who never took himself too seriously. Thank goodness he’s still going to be doing March Madness; his pipes are so perfect for that event.

**Next up today, taking a break from the Alec Baldwin as Donald Trump theme for a week, “Saturday Night Live” brought out a heavy hitter to talk about the insanity of Trump’s Cabinet picks so far.

Ladies and gentlemen, meet your new Drug Enforcement Agency czar, a high school science teacher from New Mexico, Mr. Walter White.

“Breaking Bad” fans, Heisenberg is back!

armyfootball

**So Saturday was the annual Army-Navy football game, something I have recently begun to care about, which I’ll explain in a minute. The Naval Academy had won 14 consecutive games in the rivalry, which is crazy considering usually the teams are even and trade wins every year or two.

It really is an amazing scene, the Army-Navy game; I’ve never been to one but for years watching it on TV it looked awesome.
The reason I have cared more the past few years about the game is because the U.S. Military Academy has been phenomenally involved with the Friends of Jaclyn Foundation, the charity I’ve talked about a lot on here that my wife and I support big-time and that I do volunteer writing for.

A few years ago the Army football team adopted a young cancer patient named Sean Callahan, and in the spring of 2015 let him play in their spring game. The video below, which I think I ran here once before, always makes me smile (especially Sean’s TD dance at the :50 mark).

Talking to several of the players for a story I wrote on Sean, the love for him in their voices and the appreciation they showed for having the opportunity to serve our country, really moved me.

Army finally beat Navy on Saturday, 21-17, breaking that long losing streak. Sean Callahan died on August 22, 2015. I’d like to think that somewhere in their celebrations on Saturday, a few of the players thought about Sean with a heavy heart.

Go Army.